On my way to the Grand Bazaar today, I was stopped by a rug seller, who invited me in “just for some tea.” I told him I wasn’t going to buy anything, that I didn’t want a rug, and he said that it was okay, just come in for some tea, so I did. The fact that apple tea is nearly coming out of my pores is insignificant. His name was Tommy, he was 25 and had just recently returned from Iraq where he was working on a US Army base, selling carpets. He had been selling carpets since the ripe old age of ten years old. Interestingly, I read in the paper that Turkey has a bit of a problem with hundreds of thousands of children being forced to work, and an estimated 30 000 Turkish children not even going to school. There were campaigns that were addressing this but the government fears that the economic climate may undo all the good work! We chatted for a while about rugs and Turkish life and the like, and then I told him I was going to the Grand Bazaar and he invited himself and off we went, to the Grand Bazaar. I love that place. He showed me some impressive rugs, I met some of his mates and he also showed me some Ottoman stuff. We also had a wander through the Book Bazaar, which has been in operation since medieval times! Had some cool old looking Aladdin/Middle Eastern/Islamic art which I was briefly tempted by. After this, he showed me the Istanbul Uni, where there was a protest going on and lots of waiting police with riot gear, looked very exciting. He bought some corn and fed the pigeons, a passtime I had sucessfully avoided throughout Italy and Holland, but I had fun, despite myself. We went back to his shop and he ordered us some lunch from the sandwich shop a couple of doors down. Turkish people are so hospitable! After lunch, I started making my way off to the Egyptian Bazaar, or the Spice Market. Again, I was stopped. “Hello how are you?” “Great thanks, how are you?” “Also great. Come and have a cup of tea and look at my ceramics.” “I don’t need any ceramics, I don’t want ceramics.” “Then just come for some tea.” Again, I obliged. He told me he was just heading out for lunch, and asked if I was hungry. I told him no, that I had just had lunch, but this fell on deaf ears and next I knew I was sitting at a cafe with a pide in front of me. I gave it a little go, and he was happy to finish it off. He was also an interesting bloke, Abdullah. I imagine he was about 50 and had just bought into the ceramic/rug shop with his cousin. We talked about Australian politics for a while, Kevin Rudd’s sorry speech even came into it, which was quite impressive. Finanally, I was on my way to the Spice Market. I stopped and asked for directions on the way, and was pointed in the right direction, and then this guy grabs my arm and motions me to walk with him which I perhaps too trustingly and foolishly did – there were lots of people around though so I figured it’d be okay. He kept trying to put his arm over my shoulders and I would pull it off and then finally I said “No!” firmly which he understood and stopped trying. After about ten minutes of walking with him, he pointed at a sign and smiled and I was there. Then he turned and walked back where he came from. The spice markets are great.Much smaller than the Grand Bazaar, but they’ve got everything, souveneirs, turkish sweets, clothing, not just spices. Really buzzy and full of atmosphere. People are pushing turkish delight at you from all angles. I got talking to this fellah who was selling Turkish Delight and he had a management degree and years of management experience and was retrenched with the economic crisis and couldn’t find any other job. It seems that several people I spoke to have been in a similar position. Strange times eh, when people with degrees are working in market stalls. Across from the Spice Market is what they call Yeni Cami or New Mosque. Built in the late 1500s, I’d say there are some different opinions on the name! I had a wander in, quite cool. Later that night, I met up with Tommy and we went to Taksim Square, which is considered the heart of Istanbul. Taksim is a terrific place – it was so buzzy and alive. It’s really busy, even to rather late/early on a weeknight. Think there was a massacre there in the late 70’s though. I had always wanted to try chestnuts, so bought some from a street vendor, not bad, not bad. We had some tea at a traditional Turkish restaurant – it was amazing food…a huge spread. Turkish people love eggplant, which is good with me!! My fave. After tea, we walked back to Sultanahment – saw the Galata Tower, which was built in the 1300s! Amazing. After this, I met up with another guy I knew and two of his friends and we went to this intimate little night club in Taksim. There was a live singer who sung only Turkish music, but it was actually really fun. Made for a rather interesting night as his friends didn’t speak English and he only a little, not really enough to be an effective translator. But I didn’t feel excluded or anything, it was a fun evening/morning – got back to my hotel at about 3:30am…was upgraded to a single room, oh what a luxury after a month of sharing a room! Nice way to spend my last few hours in Turkey.